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FTC: Kids target of $1.6 billion in food ads

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's largest food and beverage companies spent about $1.6 billion in 2006 marketing their products — especially carbonated drinks — to children, according to a Federal Trade Commission report obtained by the Associated Press.

About a third of that amount was dedicated to promoting those carbonated drinks.

The report, to be released Tuesday, stems from lawmakers' concern about growing obesity rates in children. It gives researchers new insight into how much companies are spending to attract youth to their products, and what venues the companies are using for their marketing. To come up with its estimate, the FTC used confidential financial data that it required the companies to turn over.

Overall, the spending was less than some previous estimates had indicated. Still, it represents a large pot of money that is being used to entice children to foods that are often unhealthy choices, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who had asked for the study.

"This study confirms what I have been saying for years. Industry needs to step up to the plate and use their innovation and creativity to market healthy foods to our kids," Harkin said. "That $1.6 billion could be used to attract our kids to healthy snacks, tasty cereals, fruits and vegetables."

The commission studied spending directed at children ages 2-17. Spending on soda marketing came to $492 million, with the vast majority of that spending directed toward adolescents. Restaurants reported spending close to $294 million, which was divided about evenly between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about $237 million with the vast majority of that amount targeted to children under age 12.

The 44 companies reviewed spread their marketing across all segments of the media, the commission found. Television ads provide a theme that usually carried over to packaging and displays in stores, and to the Internet where entry of a code on the package allowed them to participate in games or contests with prizes.

For example, "Superman Returns" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" were prominently linked to many food products last year. Companies created limited edition snacks, cereals, waffles and candy based on the movies. They offered prizes on the Internet to buyers of those products that ranged from video games to trips to Disney to a $1 million reward for the capture of villain Lex Luther.

"The Internet — though far less costly than television — has become a major marketing tool of food companies that target children and adolescents, with more than two-thirds of the 44 companies reporting online, youth-directed activities," the commission report said.

The FTC made several recommendations as part of its report.

_It said that media and entertainment companies should limit the licensing of characters to healthier foods and drinks. Also, it says media companies should limit ads placed on children's television program to healthier food and beverage products.

_It encouraged schools to adopt meaningful nutrition standards for the foods that are sold there, and it recommended that companies cease all in-school promotion of products that don't meet such standards.

_Companies that market food and drinks to children should expand public outreach efforts to educate children about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, with particular attention aimed at minority populations that are disproportionately affected by childhood obesity, the commission added.

In December 2005, the Institute of Medicine concluded that marketing practices from the food and beverage industry are out of balance with recommended diets for children and contribute to an environment that puts children's health at risk. The institute recommended that companies shift their advertising to emphasize food and drink that are substantially lower in calories, fats, salt and sugars.

The commission noted that its review came during a year in which food and beverage companies had committed to curtailing the marketing of unhealthy products. For example, it noted that 13 companies representing more than two-thirds of advertising spending directed toward children had pledged to not direct their ads to children under 12 — unless the foods met specific nutritional standards.
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Food ads for kids topped $1.6 bln in 2006: FTC

Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:52pm EDT

By Georgina Coolidge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Food and beverage companies spent $1.62 billion to market their products to children in 2006, according to a study released by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday.

The FTC study was requested by Congress in response to growing concern about childhood obesity in the United States. The study, however, did not look directly at the possible link between food and beverage advertising to kids and childhood obesity.

Estimates by the Institute of Medicine had previously put the marketing amount closer to $10 billion. FTC officials said the discrepancy was likely due to the institute including marketing to children of non-food products, as well as price promotions and coupons that are typically directed at parents.

"We are really hopeful that this can serve as a baseline for measuring future activity," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Carbonated beverages, restaurant food, and breakfast cereals made up 63 percent, or just over $1 billion, of the total spent on marketing to children.

Roughly $870 million was spent on advertising to children under the age of 12.

For the 44 companies included in the study, advertising to children between the ages of 2 and 17 made up 17 percent of their total marketing expenditures in 2006.

The report also praised an initiative by the Council of Better Business Bureaus aimed at reducing child-directed advertising by food and beverage companies.

According to a council report, also released on Tuesday, three companies participating in the voluntary program did not engage in any child-directed advertising and three others only advertised "better for you" products to children.

Coca-Cola Co, Hershey Co, and Mars Inc fulfilled pledges to eliminate all advertising to kids, while Kraft Foods Inc, Campbell Soup Co, and Unilever NV limited all, or virtually all, of their marketing to healthier products.

The six companies implemented their programs between July and December 2007. Fourteen companies total have now joined the program, including the most recent addition, Nestle SA.

The FTC report also offered guidelines for the industry, including recommendations that companies adopt and adhere to "meaningful nutritional standards" and expand the definition of advertising and marketing beyond traditional television and print media. The report also recommends companies stop all in-school promotions of products that don't meet nutritional standards.

"Most large food marketers are beginning to take their self-regulatory obligations seriously, and for that they deserve recognition," said FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz in a statement.

(Reporting by Georgina Coolidge' Editing by Tim Dobbyn)


Marketing To Kids: FTC, CBBB Weigh In With Reports
by Karlene Lukovitz, Wednesday, Jul 30, 2008 5:00 AM ET
Media Post's Marketing Daily
kids eating While the actual long-term impact on issues such as childhood obesity will require monitoring and study, it appears that major food and beverage marketers' recent commitments to self-regulation of marketing to children are already yielding benefits in the public/governmental perception arenas.

 

 

The initial overall PR effect of Tuesday's nearly simultaneous release of two independent reports--the Federal Trade Commission's much-anticipated new study on food marketing to children, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus' (CBBB) first compliance report on F&B companies participating in its new Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI)--appears to be positive, on the whole, for the companies. Or at minimum, considerably more positive than might have been the case without the self-regulatory efforts already underway.

The bottom line on the two reports: CBBB concluded that the voluntarily participating F&B companies are indeed complying with their pledges. The FTC, while making several recommendations and stressing that it will continue to monitor the situation closely, referred to progress on the self-regulatory front and did not advocate federal government intervention at this time.

During the press conference releasing their results, FTC officials stated that for the time being, they would "like to see how the self-regulatory process is working" in terms of F&B companies adhering to their CFBAI pledges and adopting the FTC's recommendations. They added that the self-regulatory process "is not yet fully implemented" by companies, and must be implemented "over a period of time."

The FTC did not have access to the contents of CBBB's report in preparing its study (nor did CBBB have pre-release access to content from the FTC report), Elaine Kolish, director of the CFBAI, told Marketing Daily. The same-day timing of the release of the two independent reports was possible because CBBB had already committed to releasing its first compliance report this July (the one-year anniversary of its announcement that major F&B companies had pledged to participate in CFBAI), and because it was public knowledge that the FTC was scheduled to testify at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, Kolish said.

CBBB had planned to release the CFBAI report in conjunction with the Congressional hearing, and while the hearing was postponed, the FTC instead issued a media alert on Monday announcing that it would release its report results on Tuesday. In response, CFBAI released its report on its originally planned date, said Kolish, who was formerly associate director for enforcement for the FTC.

Knowing that the FTC would be providing its estimate of how much F&B companies spend on marketing to children as part of its report, CFBAI planned the timing of its compliance report release to convey to the public that a large portion of the marketing money being spent is "being spent by companies that have committed to marketing better-for-you foods to children," Kolish added. "We wanted to provide context by conveying that there is a robust self-regulatory initiative at work."

CBBB simultaneously announced that Nestlé USA has become the 14th corporate participant in the CFBAI initiative.

The FTC's study, "Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation," was begun two years ago at the direction of Congress, and is based on information obtained, starting last November, from major F&B companies and quick-service restaurants.

Highlights of the FTC's report:

* The FTC estimates that 44 major F&B marketers spent $1.6 billion to promote their products to children under 12 and adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. during 2006.

This is significantly lower than the $10 billion-per-year expenditures estimated by previous studies and cited by an influential 2005 Institute of Medicine study, "Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity."

Asked about the gap in the two numbers during the FTC's press conference Tuesday, FTC officials acknowledged some surprise that their number was so much lower. However, they said that it appeared that previous estimates included non-food/beverage marketing expenditures and F&B expenditures aimed at parents rather than directly at children, and also pointed out that previous researchers did not have access to proprietary F&B company data.

* The FTC concluded that "the landscape of food advertising to youth is dominated by integrated advertising campaigns that combine traditional media, such as television, with previously unmeasured forms of marketing, such as packaging, in-store advertising, sweepstakes, and Internet."

These campaigns "often involve cross-promotion with a new movie or popular television program," the FTC stated. The report found that approximately $870 million was spent on child-directed marketing, and a little more than $1 billion on marketing to adolescents, with about $300 million overlapping between the two age groups in 2006.

"Marketers spent more money on television advertising than on any other channel ($745 million, or 46% of the 2006 total)," the FTC reported. "But for most food products, marketers employed the full spectrum of promotional techniques and formats when advertising to a young audience: Themes from television ads carried over to packaging, displays in stores or restaurants, and the Internet."

During 2006, cross-promotions tied foods and beverages to about 80 movies, television shows and animated characters "that appeal primarily to children," the report states. "In total, the companies spent more than $208 million, representing 13% of all youth-directed marketing, on cross-promotional campaigns," it continues. "For some food categories, such as restaurant food and fruits and vegetables, cross-promotions accounted for nearly 50% of reported child-directed expenditures."

* According to The Associated Press' analysis of the report, spending on soda marketing exceeded $490 million, and was heavily aimed at adolescents. Restaurants spent nearly $300 million, divided about evenly between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about $237 million, of which the vast majority was targeted to children under age 12.

* The FTC concludes that "although there is room for improvement, the food and beverage industries have made significant progress since the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services co-sponsored the Workshop on Marketing, Self-Regulation & Childhood Obesity in 2005." It cites the CFBAI for taking "important steps to encourage better nutrition and fitness among the nation's children" by "changing the mix of food and beverage advertising messages directed to children under 12 and encouraging them toward healthier eating and better physical fitness."

The FTC also points out that, to date (not including Nestle), "13 of the largest food and beverage companies--accounting for the majority of food and beverage expenditures directed toward children--have adopted the [CFBAI] initiative, pledging either not to advertise to children under 12, or to limit their television, radio, print and Internet advertising to foods that meet specified nutritional standards."

The FTC's recommendations include:

* That all companies that market F&B products to children under 12 adopt "meaningful, nutrition-based standards for marketing their products--standards that extend to all advertising and promotional techniques--including, for example, product packaging and in-store marketing."

* That companies improve the nutritional profiles of products marketed to children and adolescents, whether in or outside of schools; cease in-school promotion of products that do not meet nutritional standards; and improve the quality and consistency of the nutritional criteria adopted for "better for you" products. The report also recommends steps to enhance the CBBB's initiative.

* That more media and entertainment companies restrict the licensing of their characters to "healthier foods and beverages that are marketed to children, so that cross-promotions with popular children's movies and television characters will favor more nutritious foods and drinks." Media companies should also "consider limiting ads on child-directed programs to those that promote healthier foods and beverages."

* During the press conference, FTC officials stressed that the FTC recommends that all F&B companies join the CFBAI initiative.

In the FTC's press release on its report, FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz stated: "Most large food marketers are beginning to take their self-regulatory obligations seriously, and for that they deserve recognition. Yet some companies still need to step up to the plate and others need to strengthen their voluntary measures, not only because it is in the public interest, but also because it is in their self-interest."

Commenting on the FTC study to the Associated Press, Sen. Tom Harkin, who championed the study, said that the report "confirms what I have been saying for years. Industry needs to step up to the plate and use their innovation and creativity to market healthy foods to our kids. That $1.6 billion could be used to attract our kids to healthy snacks, tasty cereals, fruits and vegetables."

The CBBB's detailed report noted a few slips among the marketers whose compliance was studied during the period of July through December 2007, but stressed that overall compliance was very strong, and that marketers had corrected problems quickly.

"The first six months of the program's operation have shown that the CFBAI's participants are dedicated to honoring their pledge obligations and to helping to achieve the balance in child-directed food and beverage advertising that is the program's goal," CBBB stated. "As with any new program, there were occasional glitches and some growing pains as the participants implemented sometimes-dramatic changes to the way they were doing business. Accomplishing these changes involved adopting new internal marketing and governance policies or revising existing ones and, in some instances, putting new infrastructures into place to ensure that only approved better-for-you products appeared in advertising primarily directed to children under 12, or that no product advertising was directed to them as specified by their pledge."

Kolish stressed to Marketing Daily that the pledges of CFBAI participants in most cases already exceed the CBBB's original thresholds and also meet or exceed the recommendations in the FTC's report. For example, the CFBAI standards require that a minimum of 50% of advertising by a company promotes "better for you" foods, but all 13 of the companies have pledged 100%, she said. (Nestlé has not yet announced its specific standards.)

Kolish also noted that CFBAI participants have agreed to forgo all direct advertising to children in public schools--not just advertising of products that do not meet the scientifically based nutritional standards in their individual pledges--although efforts such as those tied to fund-raising are acceptable under the CFBAI.

In response to the FTC report, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) released a statement stressing that: "The FTC identified $1.6 billion as the amount spent by food and beverage companies on marketing directly to children, but that figure does not begin to reflect children's experience of that marketing. By the FTC's own admission, there are some significant gaps."

These gaps, the CCFC said, include:

* Companies report $46 million for character or cross-promotional brand licensing fees. "However, most cross-promotional arrangements do not require a fee. In 2006, there were 81 media properties used by the target companies to promote their brands. These cross-promotions turn entire programs and movies into advertisements for the foods they promote, yet they are not counted as expenditures."

* The total expenditure figure does not include spending for advertising and product placement on general audience programming watched by children, "even though prime-time shows such as "American Idol" and "The Simpsons" typically have larger child and teen audiences than programs considered children's shows."

* In-school advertising does not include regional/local or franchise spending for fast-food companies. "For example, McDonald's infamous report-card advertising in Seminole County Florida was sponsored by a regional marketing association and would not have been counted in the FTC report," said the CCFC.

* Internet advertising, particularly on company-sponsored Web sites, is relatively inexpensive, and the FTC's expenditure data "does not begin to capture its impact--the amount of time children spend with the sites and the frequency of their visits," CCFC maintains.

"Given the concerning picture of food marketing's infiltration of children's lives painted by the FTC report, it is disappointing that they continue to perpetuate the myth that self-regulation can effectively rein in an industry whose profits rely on commercializing childhood," CCFC concludes.

The Senate's hearing on F&B marketing to children is expected to be rescheduled for the fall.

Karlene Lukovitz can be reached at klukovitz@klmedialink.com.
 

July 30, 2008
Advertising

Tug of War in Food Marketing to Children

By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD/ New York Times
THE Federal Trade Commission issued a report Tuesday detailing the pervasiveness of food marketing to children, and a coalition of food companies responded with its own report arguing they had made progress on the issue by self-policing.

The F.T.C.’s report was conducted as part of a Congressional inquiry into rising childhood obesity rates. It found that food companies had spent $1.6 billion to market their products to children and teenagers in 2006.

Makers of carbonated beverages spent the most on marketing to children and teenagers, followed by fast-food restaurants and producers of breakfast cereals. And the major advertising platform was television.

The food companies’ report, also released Tuesday, detailed the progress made by a coalition of 14 major food companies, including Coca-Cola and Kellogg, that was formed in 2006 to fend off government regulation.

Members of the coalition, called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, pledge either to stop aiming ads at children or to promote only what the council calls “better-for-you products” in ads directed at children.

The F.T.C. seemed to applaud the progress that the coalition had made. “The committee’s primary recommendation is all food and beverage companies adopt and adhere to” nutritional standards for products marketed to children, said Lydia Parnes, director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, at a news conference in Washington. She said that joining the coalition would be “a useful first step” for companies.

But critics of the self-regulatory approach said they were troubled by the lack of industrywide definitions on what advertising to children entailed and on what “better” food meant.

“In the Better Business Bureau program, the companies themselves determine what is better food, the companies themselves determine what is children’s advertising. The companies determine all these things; there’s not even a real uniformity in what these decisions are,” said Robert Kesten, the executive director of the Center for Screen-Time Awareness, a Washington-based group that aims to limit media influence.

The business bureau’s report showed that companies’ pledges had resulted in slight modifications to the products they sell to children and how they sell those products.

The Campbell Soup Company, for example, has stopped featuring Chicken Noodle Soup on its Web sites directed at children. Chicken and Stars, Healthy Request Chicken Noodle and reduced-sodium Chicken Noodle, all of which meet Campbell’s nutritional standards for children, can be featured, however.

Cadbury Adams has stopped marketing Bubblicious gum to children, said a spokeswoman, Luisa Girotto.

Kellogg’s has reformulated several products, including the cold cereals Apple Jacks, Froot Loops and Corn Pops, so that they meet the company’s declared nutrition requirements for children, a Kellogg’s spokeswoman said.

And Burger King started offering a new Kids Meal, featuring macaroni and cheese, that meets its nutritional criteria. (Its children’s menu continues to feature a double hamburger, however, with 420 calories and 22 grams of fat.)

The business bureau’s report covered changes made in the last half of 2007. The timeline for meeting the pledges varied. Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Kraft Foods, Mars and Unilever were to put their programs fully into effect by the last half of 2007, while Burger King, Cadbury Adams, General Mills, Kellogg, McDonald’s, and PepsiCo will only start adopting their programs in that period. ConAgra Foods and Nestlé only recently joined the coalition.

The F.T.C. report was based on internal data from 2006 that 44 food and drink companies and fast-food restaurants were ordered to provide.

Among the findings: About $870 million in marketing spending was directed at children under 12, while $1 billion was directed at teenagers (those figures include $300 million worth of marketing that was aimed at both groups).

Still, the agency’s estimate of $1.6 billion being spent on marketing to children and teenagers was far below where other estimates had been, notably the $10 billion figure that the Institute of Medicine has been using. (The F.T.C. said it excluded nonfood marketing and advertising that it did not see as aimed at children, like coupons.)

Because the companies’ efforts did not get under way until 2007, none of the shifts the report detailed were reflected in the agency’s numbers.

In the report issued by the business bureau, companies’ commitments vary widely.

Each company defined for itself what “better for you” meant. Kraft has decided its crackers have to have fewer than 100 calories and 290 milligrams of sodium in a serving, while ConAgra said its canned pasta had to have fewer than 350 calories and 750 milligrams of sodium.

The companies were also able to define for themselves what advertising directed at children meant. Coca-Cola and Cadbury Adams, for example, consider a commercial whose audience is composed 50 percent or more of children under 12 to be marketing to children. Mars’s definition is stricter: a children’s audience is one that is composed 25 percent or more of children under 12.

The bureau gave some examples of companies faltering. Campbell and Unilever, for example, had promised to advertise only better-for-you products to children. But both had neglected to remove products on Web sites aimed at children that did not meet their nutrition guidelines. Both companies have since fixed the problem, the bureau said.

Elaine D. Kolish, the director of the companies’ effort, said the different standards were reasonable.

“This is self-regulation to begin with and we think that this marketplace, competition-driven approach actually is really good for consumers and for children under 12,” she said. “This way, more companies can participate because they have some flexibility in setting the standards that takes into account what kind of foods they sell.”

Of course, even if companies do cut down on their marketing to children, it does not mean that children will stop seeing the advertisements or eating the products.

Prime-time programming generally does not meet any of the companies’ criteria for child-focused programming, but more than two million children regularly watch “American Idol,” for example, where Coca-Cola is a major sponsor. (“ ‘American Idol’ is family entertainment. It is not programming primarily directed at children under 12,” a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, Diana Garza Ciarlante, said in an e-mail message.)

And one easy solution for companies is to take products that have been marketed to children and start marketing them to mothers.

Kellogg’s has been trying to reformulate its Pop-Tarts, for example, but has not succeeded in creating a better-for-you version. By the end of the year, “if we can’t do it, we will shift the target for that product to adults, whether it’s moms or whomever makes sense,” said a Kellogg’s spokeswoman, Kris Charles.

That is unlikely to satisfy critics.

“It’s the marketing industry policing itself, and as is shown over and over and over again, that’s problematic,” said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.


FTC Study: Dollars Spent on Marketing to Kids Much Lower Than Thought

Figure Drops from $10 Billion to $1.6 Billion

By Ira Teinowitz Advertising Age

Published: July 29, 2008

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- It turns out food and beverage marketers are spending $8.4 billion less to target children than initially thought. But some in Congress say it's still too much.

A Federal Trade Commission report on marketing of food products to kids features the first numbers gleaned from actual company marketing documents. The FTC report says food, fast food and beverage makers spent $1.6 billion marketing to children under 17 in 2006.

Assumptions in doubt
But in offering the figure, the FTC report dramatically contradicted a widely used $10 billion estimate made by a college professor. That larger figure, cited in a previous government study from the National Academies of Science Institute of Medicine, had been a foundation of congressional complaints about food marketing to children.

FTC officials and some consumer groups today were at pains to explain the difference between the numbers.

FTC officials said the discrepancy reflects the availability of actual marketing data obtained from companies, the ability to look specifically at marketers of products directed to kids and the decision not to include coupon discounts or the $360 million cost of promotional toys offered with children's meals in examining the total cost. A consumer group official said that the college professor's study had also included marketing of children's food products aimed at their parents.

Today's FTC report found that $870 million was spent on marketing foods to kids under 12 and $1 billion to teens. Because $300 million of that was to both segments, the total amount spent by the 44 companies was $1.6 billion.

Of the total, $746 million -- or 46% -- was spent on TV. Carbonated beverages, fast-food restaurants and breakfast foods represented $1.02 billion or 63% of the total amount spent. The study also reported that cross-promotion of food and beverage products with TV shows, movies and animated characters was extensive, with about 80 programs cross-promoted.

Concerns about 'junk'
The study didn't directly answer whether marketers were pushing so-called junk foods more aggressively in their ads as critics have claimed, but the FTC did express concern about it.

It cited the efforts of the Children's Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the commitment of 13 companies -- a 14th, Nestle, joined today -- to either drop children's advertising or use it only for more nutritious products. Still, the report says more companies need to get on board and media companies need to adopt their own limits so the only food ads on children's shows is for more nutritious foods.

FTC officials also said that because the report was based on 2006 data, it didn't reflect any effects of the marketers' initiative, and Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, cautioned that the FTC wasn't as concerned about the amount spent on ads as what was being advertised.

She was also cautious about drawing conclusions about the role advertising plays in causing childhood obesity.

"The obesity problem is a complex problem. It's not only about advertising," she told a news conference today, saying inactivity, lack of physical education in schools and other issues are factors.

Interest groups react
Reaction to the study was quick in coming.

Advertising groups said the study showed ad spending was a far less extensive a factor than critics charged and contended the initiative would further shrink overall spending and spending on marketing of less nutritional foods.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, suggested that the FTC numbers and the group's research indicated advertising hadn't changed that much since the initiative. She said that while the FTC didn't single out beverage companies, most of the TV ads for carbonated beverages are for higher-calorie versions. She also noted that some big advertisers still aren't part of the initiative, mentioning KFC, Pizza Hut and Chuck E. Cheese among them.

FTC commissioner Jon Leibowitz called the report "a monumental feast of facts and figures" that "leaves a tinge of heartburn." He cited the $474 million spent to market "sugary carbonated beverages to adolescents" and the $520 million spent on advertising and toys to market fast-food children's meals.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, among the strongest congressional critics of the ads, said the report showed "food companies are spending millions of dollars to target children so they can become lifelong consumers of their unhealthy products. And their tactics are working. While our nation struggles with the effects of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates, it is time for corporate responsibility," he said.

Shape up, or else
He warned that if companies don't voluntarily rein in their marketing, Congress might have to act.

"While many food and beverage companies have pledged to market healthier options to kids through self-regulatory programs, I want to see real results and changes in the types of products marketed towards children. If these programs do not produce significant changes -- government will have to act," he said.